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Follow the Pack?

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on February 7, 2011 – 2:46 pm

New Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden brings his version of the West Coast offense to town Monday.  Let’s hope the passing game has some of the elements Green Bay used to knock off the Steelers in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

That’s not to say what the Packers run is anything near the West Coast, which seems to be all things to all people. Certainly Sunday’s running game was nowhere near what Gruden envisions. After a postseason the Packers flummoxed foes with a Wishbone of sorts, on Sunday they sat one fullback (Quinn Johnson) and barely played the other (John Kuhn) in calling just 11 runs and never tried to “pound it” as Gruden says he wants to do.  Plus, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn’t do any bootlegs or sprintouts that are usually associated with the West Coast.

But the Pack did some things that have become principles of any version of the West Coast, be it the branch of Bill Walsh, Mike Holmgren, Jon Gruden or Brian Billick. Even when he was in shotgun, which was most of the time, Rodgers got rid of it fast to receivers running quick slants and angled crossing routes that emphasize yards after catch. And even though they didn’t run much, the game’s first TD, a bomb to Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson, came off a run fake, another Coast staple.  

One criticism of the previous regime had been the slow amount of time it took for routes to develop downfield, such as comebacks, digs and outs, putting the quarterback under duress to make perfect throws.  To be fair, they had that guy in Carson Palmer. But when the pieces around him started to be replaced in 2006, it never quite fit again.    

Yet with tight end Jermaine Gresham and wide receiver Jerome Simpson emerging as YAC guys, maybe visions of Nelson and Greg Jennings can dance in the head.


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Posted in Hobson's Choice | 29 Comments »


29 Responses to “Follow the Pack?”

  1. By bengalpirate on Feb 7, 2011 | Reply

    The key for me is for the Bengals to convince Carson to give Jay Gruden an opportunity to sell Carson on the new offense, do the things to make and keep Carson happy and protected. Then, perhaps Carson is the key to the Road to Indianapolis next February. If we revitalize Carson, re-sign Cedric Benson and Jonathan Joseph and continue to grow our youth sapling into a strapping tree, anything is possible. Bengals leadership must move fast, though, in face of a lack of a new CBA and possible lockout. WHO DEY!!!

  2. By jamison007 on Feb 7, 2011 | Reply

    @bengalpirate – well said, WHO DEY!!! Great blog Geoff, good insight into a whole new world of possibility, go Coach Gruden. Coach Lewis, keep after the young coach and challenge the strategy, give us that identity we all seek, bring Carson home!

  3. By mwindle1973 on Feb 8, 2011 | Reply

    I’m going to wait and see what the offense is once it’s installed. But my guess is this WCO stuff is a bit overblown. All that binds these so-called WCOs is actually the terminology and route numbering. Problem is with Brat’s offense is it’s a lot like a Mike Martz offense. If you don’t have a top 10 Oline or bettter you can’t run it successfully. It was hinged on getting great protection from 5 guys with no help. In 05 when we had that line, that offensive system showed how good it can be. It was not the system, that was the problem it was personnel within the system. I’m a little excited and a little concerned about the new offense. Because anytime you say pound the rock and WCO in the same sentence it’s confusing. But Jon Gruden ran the most physical run oriented WCOs ever. In doing so he abandoned some of the basic tenets of what makes a WCO.

  4. By hobsonschoice1 on Feb 8, 2011 | Reply

    MATT: Pound The Rock and The West Coast offense can go hand in hand. When the Bengals ran the Walsh version via Wyche in the late’80s, they were top five in NFL rushing five straight years and were No. 1 in 1988-89.

    I think the confusing thing is that people assume Gruden’s West Coast is the same as 20 years ago without taking into consideration evolution.

    No matter which edition, there are principles: Quick throws out of short drops, quarterback movement, crossing routes, slants, deep balls off play action, multiple formations and personnel groups.

    Each coach’s scheme is different, but those seem to be the elements. It is certainly what head coach Marvin Lewis wants whenever he outlines changes. As he indicated last Thursday, he wants the running plays to more mirror the passes and he believes that is going to come from more personnel groups and fewer plays. And he wants to go deep more often.

    West Coast can be whatever you want. Smashmouth, which is how Jon Gruden had to do it without a QB, or finesse, which is how Green Bay seemed to beat the Steelers. But the key is being multiple with a coordinaton of run and pass.

    You can call what Brat had a form of Martz Ball, but there is room to help out linemen in any scheme. (The Bears adjusted mid-year to save Cutler.) The Bengals usually chose not to.

    Remember, Brat liked to have multiple formations, too. But the difference seems to be Lewis is trying to condense the number of plays with different routes, easier throws, and better coordination of run and pass.

  5. By sapon1 on Feb 8, 2011 | Reply

    I’m no WC guru but if keep a slobber knocker FB on the field and involve the RB in the passing game I think the Offense will be much improved even if Carson doesn’t return. I remember the Rathman/Craig combo at SanFran and it was awesome.

    As for the scheme Coach Bratkowski was using… 3 elite professionals (Carson, Chad, TO) could not make it work and it took nearly 3 years for Simpson to grasp it. Doesn’t take a genius to know something was broken.

    Green Bay’s spread offense creates problems for the Steelers. But it takes high precision passing or it falls apart. In practice Carson looks every bit as good as Rodgers but in games it’s a different story.

  6. By hobsonschoice1 on Feb 8, 2011 | Reply

    Once upon a time, Brat was known as the guy that had the key to stopping Pittsburgh with all the three and four wides. Note Kitna’s 68 throws in ’01 and 32 in ’03 and Palmer’ 38 in ’05, all wins. But I think the key for Rodgers was getting rid of it quickly because you still have to block those guys spread or not.

  7. By jamison007 on Feb 8, 2011 | Reply

    @hobsonschoice1 – thanks again for the great exchange on your blog and your follow up insights! Getting rid of the ball quickly is becoming so critical, especially given how much bigger and quicker defenses get. I am pretty psyched up on what Coach Gruden has cooking…especially that we will be flexible enough to key on our opponents weaknesses, both before and during a game…this should be very exciting to the entire 2010 offensive team! How is this for an identity – a Bengal team that looks like RiverCity Gamblers – ready to out scheme and out play the rest!

  8. By mdpfirrman on Feb 8, 2011 | Reply

    I am excited about Dan LeFevour being geared toward the West Coast. This gives the Bengals two potential options, not just one in Palmer. That was LeFevour’s knock in college is he would have to land in a West Coast type system. Well, here it is…

  9. By bengalpirate on Feb 8, 2011 | Reply

    West Coast, East Coast, Arena Coast, or Ohio River Coast, I don’t care what you call the offense as long as it emphasizes the run and is unpredictable under Jay Gruden’s guidance. I think it is really cool that he has such a varied offensive history and I hope he puts in some of his own new wrinkles that will keep other team’s defenses guessing. A strong running game sets up a key facet of a good offense and that is the play action pass. Nothing is sweeter than having a defense bite on a play action fake and throwing the deep ball for a TD. Boomer ran it to perfection and I’m hopeful Carson can too. Maybe the Bengals film folks can dig up some old film of Boomer faking to Bengals RB’s of the 80′s and early 90′s and throwing the bomb to Eddie Brown, or Tim McGee. But I’m sure Jay Gruden knows what a good play action pass looks like.

  10. By kaptkurt on Feb 8, 2011 | Reply

    How do you know it’s offseason in Bengaldom? We bring in an OC who has NEVER been a full time position coach, let alone OC in the NFL and we’re ready to drink the Kool Aid. Any football fan from any NFL team could have given the same answers as Gruden. We want to exploit a defenses weakness. Who doesn’t want to use the run to set up the pass? What team doesn’t crave an effective play action pasing game? I hope we didn’t hire him because he can install an offense in 3 weeks. The best answer I heard in the press conference was he’s going to stay out of the Palmer mess. All that said, I hope he can 1. Call a good game 2. Cut down on the silly mistakes that have plagued this team 3. Make effective in game adjustments. Those three things, along with a last place schedule should put us back in the hunt for a playoff berth

  11. By hobsonschoice1 on Feb 8, 2011 | Reply

    KAPPER: I don’t think anybody is drinking Kool Aid out there. It’s not exactly flowing in the streets with the kind of offeason that has transpired, which calls for a much harder brew than Kool Aid.

    There’s a lot of skepticism and Gruden knows why. We’ve talked about the gamble. No experience calling plays in the NFL. But being a general manager, head coach, and coordinator in other pro leagues should’t be underestimated. The NFL shield isn’t a rubber stamp for good coaching.

    And I agree with you. “Who doesn’t want to use the run to set up the pass? What team doesn’t crave an effective play action pasing game?” I would say the 2010 Bengals, which is why Marvin changed it up.

    With all due respect, I can’t agree with you that a fan could have conducted that news conference. What would they have said when Lap pulled out some of the terms from his P.B.-Walsh playbook and wanted to know if they were in Gruden’s vocab?

    But, you are exactly right. His lack of NFL experience puts the onus on the Bengals, no question. Gruden has been on the radar long enough that if a winning franchise had made the hire it would have been portrayed as “bold and out of the box.”

  12. By whodeysteve on Feb 8, 2011 | Reply

    1st.) I know a lot of people say that Jay Gruden has little experience but if they remember a lot of people weren’t jumping all over the bandwagon when we signed a guy by the name of Bill Walsh whose only NFL experience was one year as a RB’s coach with the Raiders but by 1976 there wasn’t a single person on the team that wasn’t upset when he left. Now I’m not saying this guy is Bill Walsh but I do think and hope that he will do as good with our offense as Mike Zimmer did with our defense. 2nd.) If Palmer comes back then great I have loved Palmer since we drafted him but if Palmer still has this much disdain for playing for the Bengals, Brown, Lewis and us fans after Brown and Lewis have made it clear that they have his best interest in mind. Then I(and I think I speak for the majority of fans) say I hope the best for him and his family and good-bye. Cause this is not the Art Modell ran Browns and we expect to win and theres two ways to win with or without him. I say start the kid Dan LeFevour.

  13. By jamison007 on Feb 8, 2011 | Reply

    @hobsonschoice1 – really appreciated your response to KAPPER. From my outside perspective, Bengaldom has been paying close attention to our team and as Geoff has previously pointed out so well, Brat’s offense was hot back in the day, but our personnel and the league has changed. Of course every fan and every team wants what we are talking about, what we have noticed is that our formula on offense made it look and feel impossible to operate efficiently. I root for Coach Lewis to utilize Coach Gruden effectively and maintain a strong hold of the entire team…showing from ownership down that we mean business in ’11!

  14. By 2ndboot on Feb 9, 2011 | Reply

    One thing we can bank on now is that Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland will no longer be able to just predict how the Bengals will attack anymore. I think the problem with Brat, and perhaps I’m wrong was he did the same thing for so long everyone knew it. You can’t use the same playbook year after year with players changing teams more often than we change socks and not expect them to take your core game with them..It seems every team had a copy of Brat’s playbook this year as if it was readily available on youtube.. it’s like a car. You can’t stick a 95 Ford escorts carb on a 2011Chevy Volt and expect to hit 0-60 in less than a month…Brat was still using the escort plans…

  15. By 2ndboot on Feb 9, 2011 | Reply

    Kap…even Paul Brown himself had a first season coaching in the NFL.. Gruden is a proven winner.. The question is can he win under ol Mikey.. We’re about to find out.. I hope he calls plays from the sidelines instead of the pressbox…something just seems to detached with that..

  16. By sapon1 on Feb 9, 2011 | Reply

    @hobsonchoice1 – I fully agree the key to Packers success is the quick pass to beat the blitz pressure and the roll out pass to allow WR time to get further down field; Bengals did neither last season and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen them use these tactics under Brat; not sure how they suit Carson – certainly worked great for Kurt Warner (a guys that has always reminded me of Carson).

    @2ndboot – my gut tells me that Brat’s failure was not having deep convictions about what is non-negotiable in his scheme; I think he was a yes-man to MB; no TE, okay I’ll scheme around it… no FB, okay I’ll scheme around it, no pass protection… ok I’ll scheme around it… play TO and Chad even though they neither block for the run or remain true to the play call, yes boss.

  17. By hobsonschoice1 on Feb 9, 2011 | Reply

    SAPPER: I think Brat would agree that he had a lot of input in what he wanted. At least that’s the way it sounded.

    From what I can piece together, he opted not to have a fullback after Fui went on IR at the end of training camp. They had a chance to trade for Pressley, but he preferred to go with the tight ends because of their experience.

    After Pressley played 30 of 68 snaps in the win over the Browns back in December a month after they signed him following his release from the Bucs, Brat said they were looking for a certain kind of fullback after Vakapuna went down.

    “You have to have the right one,” he said then. “We felt Chris (Pressley) You have to have the right one,” he said then. “We felt Chris had the ability to be that kind of fullback, so when we got him up and going it gave us a few more things we could do. … Having had Chris here for the entire preseason last year, we knew what he could do and we saw him play in all those games and that was certainly in his favor.”

    Good memory, Sapper. ’01, Brat’s first year, was a brutal one for the tight ends. Tony McGee and Marco Battaglia were hurt and getting phased out.

    But they knew Brat desperately wanted a tight end going into the 2002 draft and with Matt Schobel the last available prospect they felt could contribute right away, they traded up to get him in the third round. He still needed a blocker and got him the next year in free agency with Reggie Kelly.

    As for T.O: Some of the coaches and Palmer wanted a veteran receiver when the club realized Antonio Bryant was done and pushed and/or recommended a T.O. signing.

  18. By mwindle1973 on Feb 10, 2011 | Reply

    @ Hobson: Good summing up of the WCO issue. I swear you could write a book (people have) to explain what that umbrella term entails. I think part of the problem is as offense has evolved the term has continued to be used beyond it’s intent. All WCOs absorbed other offensive principals. And all non-WCOs have absorbed WCO principals. To the point that all WCO denotes now days is a common terminology and certain systematic/logistical practices. On another note today a local media source, citing Palmer’s real-estate agent, confirmed that they are preparing his house to go onto the market. They added he will “not be coming back” to town. You know this makes you appreciate Chad’s babyish antics in 2008. At least you knew exactly where things stood. This is a hairy situation. I know this, if my franchise QB was about to retire over a trade demand. I might consider getting something for him instead of letting him sit.

  19. By jamison007 on Feb 10, 2011 | Reply

    Just read some rumor “news” about Carson. The possibility that Carson doesn’t want to play for us has been a big bummer. I am very proud how Carson has carried himself through his years here. Having family in Ohio, and knowing how good folks are in the great Buckeye state, I am hoping that an outpouring of support for Carson from the fans is underway. I truly hope that when Carson fully realizes how many fans he has here in Cincy that he will atleast live up to his contract and give Cincy one more year. I am not sure if this is real or not, but I found an old blog that proports to be Carson’s official blog – the last post was back when he signed his contract extension (after the injury in Steeler playoff game). He speaks so highly of the fans and community and promises to work hard. I hope Carson gives it one more try!

  20. By tepidfan31 on Feb 10, 2011 | Reply

    I feel certain that Carson won’t be back, so does Cincinnati’s most respected owner, in spite, force him to retire? If that happens, we get nothing for him this year, totally screws up and changes any draft strategy that was envisioned, and knocks the Bengals back to mediocre for several years. We’ll need a QB, if by draft, remember our draft of Akili, when the first three picks were QB’s, all were considered sure bets with only Mc Nabb making it. In comparison the QB’s in this year’s draft all have question marks; so the chances of another Klinger or Akili are absolutely real. Further how long will it take a guy who does make it, start and perform adequately? A trade may be possible, but never for a franchise QB. Further with Palmer here, we needed a safety, a WR, a guard, etc. This throws all of these picks into later rounds, which usually means less talent.

  21. By overthroensamoan on Feb 10, 2011 | Reply

    I’m sorry guys but this team is a moving van away from being in total disarray. The face of your franchise wants out and is willing to retire and walk away from millions just to get out of town. I say if you’re able to get another first rounder from the Cards it would be time to let him go. Use that extra pick and work out a deal for Orton. The guys numbers are pretty impressive for being stuck on a team with no running game and a lame duck coach. It’s the only legit option they have. I’m convinced CP is gone, they have no option on the current roster and no big time QB in this draft. I’m afraid they panic and repeat the Akili Smith experience. What do they say about those who don’t learn from they’re prior mistakes? They’re doomed to repeat them. UGH!!!! Lets hope not

  22. By mwindle1973 on Feb 11, 2011 | Reply

    You stated in an article today that the latest Carson news has no bearing on his trade situation and the selling of his house was already planned. In fact though the person that made the statement to channel 9, said more than Palmer was selling his house. And in fact I’ve seen no source that this was pre-planned either. THe person interviewed said that Palmer had called Wednesday to “have preparations begin for the sale.” THere’s clue one. If it is pre-planned then wouldn’t preparations already be made? But the person added more. They said that Palmer said he was leaving town, “and he’s not coming back.” Two ways to look at this. Why would Palmer share this info knowing it could be repeated? COuldn’t this person just be trying to cause hype? Seems unrealistic that Palmer would be confiding in his realtor huh? Unless he wanted the info leaked!

  23. By whodeysteve on Feb 11, 2011 | Reply

    Our Message to our 2011 Bengals- I have one question are you man or are you mouse? Cause the perception out there in the media is we don’t have enough talent to win a game. Little lone go to the playoffs. You all got to the NFL because you are winners therefore you will win. The perception is we can’t win but don’t buy into that cause you have proved them wrong before. Every single person on this team has proved them wrong before. It’s about your DETERMINATION! Ken Anderson once taught us all in 1981 that it is possible to shine in your darkest hour! Marvin Lewis came here with a simple message “JUST KEEP SHOVELING”! If you believe in yourself and have dedication, pride, and never quit you will be a WINNER! So are you going to take your beating lying down or are you going to swing back? Are you going to earn the stripes that you wear and make them fear the day they questioned you? I will ask one more time are you man or are you mouse! -Signed the fans who know you will prove them wrong!

  24. By bengalmaniac on Feb 11, 2011 | Reply

    Interesting point I heard on the radio, I wish I could remember who it was. But they were saying that during Super Bowl week, going to speak to many different defensive coordinators, they asked them what they thought of Bratkowski’s offense and the overwhelming response was “it’s one of the most predictable offenses in the NFL.” That speaks volumes. Going back to the “roots” is going to be a good thing. Let’s go Gruden and get this thing rolling. Get #9 on board and I think we have a great chance to get back to the top.

  25. By jamison007 on Feb 11, 2011 | Reply

    @Mwindle,whodeysteve,bengalmaniac:
    The rumors and trash talking are heating up something fierce. There are bloggers all over ESPN and the other trashy sites jumping on the “how pathetic are the Bengals” bandwagon again. This is proof that us fans must rise up and stand proud for our team. One thing is for certain, if CP wants to prove to the entire NFL just how great and elite he is, then when he takes the Bengals to the promise land, he will be making a HUGE statement. Think about it, given what everyone is saying, if CP takes the worst team in the league to the playoffs and beyond next year, talk about making some people pound sand!!!?? If that isn’t enough motivation for Palmer to take up the fight one more year in what looks to be a cakewalk ’11 schedule…well, then there it is, even I will be ready for a new QB! Who Dey!!

  26. By mwindle1973 on Feb 12, 2011 | Reply

    IDK about the Palmer situation. I know this. When the media reported we fired Brat in part to saitisfy him, Palmer released a statement saying that wasn’t true. When they reported that he was demanding a trade or he would retire. He released a statement saying he merely asked for a trade. But on the other hand it appears that his camp is leaking info quicker than a white house aid. They have consistently kept this story in the news cycle. I say when March 4th passes without a trade or a new CBA, this could get really interesting. They’ve done a good job with the politics though. Because if Palmer decides to return, they’ve positioned it where they can say, he merely asked for a trade, the rest was media rumors. Whether he comes back or not, can we count on him 100% like we have in the past? Don’t we have to bring in a capable vet this year just in case?

  27. By whodeysteve on Feb 12, 2011 | Reply

    @jamison007:
    Precisely you would think Palmer would want to prove them wrong but it seems to be otherwise. It is getting bad with all there starting to say about the Bengals again. But make no bones about it I think we have a lot of talent for a team everyone in the media is saying will have trouble winning 2 games next season. On another note I love seeing Jerome Simpson say “That’s where I want to represent my team and family and make the city of Cincinnati proud.” I believe he has earned the right to start next year. Also love to hear about Chinedum Ndukwe. If we do lose Louie Cioffi I would love us to get Ken Riley to replace him cause he was not only a upstanding person and player for us but he was a heck of a coach down at Florida A&M.

  28. By mwindle1973 on Feb 12, 2011 | Reply

    Well Brat got picked up by the Falcons as their new QBs coach. Probably will surprise some Bengals fans that he found employment so quickly. This will obviously put him right back in a position to return as an OC in a year or two.

  29. By jamison007 on Feb 14, 2011 | Reply

    @whodeysteve – great point about Simpson, clearly all players with the heart and right mindset need to show up and play next year. I too agree that we have waaaay too much talent for anyone from 2010 not to want to be a part of the same team with a new offensive identity. @mwindle1973 – I am glad to hear Brat is able to move on…if he is smart he will re-work his schemes to allow QBs to get ball off quicker, which seems to be what hurt us these past few years. This is why I think consensus among real fans and Hobson is that the type of offense that Gruden is rolling out is exactly what the doctor ordered…quicker routes and giving the QB quicker options. This is why it is sooo important we get Carson back on the train. Our D should be monstrous this season…you hear that boyz???

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